Hertfordshire Police say they are particularly concerned by the rapidly-growing number of phone scams. In this month alone, 128 incidents have been reported in places including Bishop's Stortford, Sawbridgeworth, Hertford and Welwyn Garden City.
Around one in ten people have been caught out by the phone scammers and were persuaded to hand over bank cards, cash and even jewellery.
Detective Inspector Jason Keane told us there has been a "severe increase" in this type of crime. He explained criminals often target elderly people and are conning them out of large sums of money: "It tends to be in thousands of pounds which could represent their life savings, which makes it an absolutely abhorrent crime."
A 81-year-old lady from Bishop's Stortford was targeted a few months ago. She and her husband were conned out of £3,000 by phone scammers who pretended to be from their bank and from the police.
They were told one of their bank cards had been cloned. The phone scammers said they would need to empty their account and hand over the money, so a new one could be set up for them.
She was repeatedly called by the phone scammers who urged her to go to the bank to withdraw thousands of pounds.
"They absolutely wore me down" she said. "They kept phoning. 'Have you gone yet?'"
She withdrew the money and handed it over to a courier, who had been sent by the phone scammers.
The following day, she reported it to police. She was so distressed, she ended up in hospital.
– Victim of phone scam
"I was so anxious and stressed out. Absolutely stressed out. And, to be quite honest, I don't think that I've fully recovered from it yet. Because it's still in my mind that I shouldn't have done it."_
The lady and her husband have now been given back the money after their bank accepted they had been victims of fraud. She says she is still coming to terms with what happened and says she has been left feeling "anxious" and "deeply embarrassed".
Protect yourself from phone scams
Hertfordshire Police have come up with some advice on how to protect yourself from phone scams:
- Remember, your bank and the police would never ask you for your card or your PIN number.
- If you do get a suspicious phone call, leave your landline for at least five minutes before using it again. Even after you hang up, phone scammers can stay on the line for several minutes.
- If you have any concerns, visit your bank's local branch or call the police on 101 - the non-emergency number.
- Some phone companies offer call screening services which can be effective in blocking bogus callers. Contact your phone company and ask about call screening and caller display services.
For further information, visit the Hertfordshire Police website: http://www.herts.police.uk/advice/crimeprevention/phonescams.aspx